Jessica Graham - bluerloop Advisory Board

  • 11.04.2022
  • bluerloop
  • bluerloop

How did your connection with impact investing and entrepreneurship begin?

I built my career in the nonprofit sector and also have a strong interest in entrepreneurship.

My career in the nonprofit sector began in New York City before returning to Houston in 2012. My experience ranges from working with small, early stage organizations to large, well established nonprofits. Over the past few years, my interest in entrepreneurship and social change lead me to get involved with angel investor groups that support women and minority founders.

In 2021, I co-founded Impact100 Houston which grants money to nonprofit organizations in five focus areas, including environment. By the end of our second year, we will have awarded $440,000 in grant funds. It is the third company I have started, and its mission is to unite and empower women to give together, creating transformational impact in the local community. It is part of the Impact100 Global network which has awarded over $105 million dollars throughout the United States, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

What is the most unusual and exciting activity you have done?

The most unusual activity I ever performed was scuba diving with humpback whales. It was their migrating season but we did not expect to see any on the dive. While heading out on the boat, a pod breached the water within view and we quickly dropped anchor. By the time we got in the water, they weren’t close enough to see anymore but we could hear them communicating which was incredible.

What is one of the most impactful projects you have been associated with?

After spending over 20 years in the nonprofit sector, it is impossible for me to point to just one project. There is a tension sometimes regarding the scale of change and how that defines impact. I have witnessed education programs that influence the life outcomes for students in entire communities, and I have helped deliver meals to homebound seniors in government housing projects. The interventions are vastly differently but each makes a direct impact on someone’s life.

What similarities do you see between nonprofit organizations and startups?

They both are driven by passion and a desire for change, whether that change is related to improving society or filling a gap in the market. Also, it is rare to find a startup or a nonprofit that has all of the resources they wish they had. There is so much competition for funding. Raising money is both critical and time consuming.

What is something that surprised you about the Houston startup ecosystem?

It is incredibly innovative and diverse. People associate Houston with oil and gas. However, Houston is that and so much more. There are many different programs available to support entrepreneurs across a broad range of industries, from energy and beyond. There is a spirit of optimism and excitement about what’s to come.